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8 Things All Architects Should Know About Their Owner Architect Contracts

You didn’t become a Design Professional to learn about Architectural contracts – so let’s keep this quick and simple. 

Today we’re providing a checklist of the top 8 issues to review before signing any Client furnished Agreement. 

Let’s start with a question – why not use your own contract?

Architect Contracts:

Unfortunately, there are times when Clients will insist on using their form of appointment. 

Addressing Owner furnished Architectural Contracts:

When faced with this situation the typical response is to forward the Client furnished architectural contracts directly to the Legal Advisor for review and comment. There are, however, two major problems with this approach:

Firstly, Legal Advisors are not Design Professionals and don’t always understand which contract issues are the most important issues for Architects, and Design Professionals.

Secondly, Legal Advisors must manage their own risk and responsibilities so they may respond to your architectural contract inquiry with too much information. This will leave you with yet more paperwork to review and act upon.

Architects and Design professionals should always seek Professional Legal Counsel before entering into any contract.

While it’s paramount that you seek professional advice and guidance from your legal counsel, like all team members, they also need to be managed effectively.

If you want to gain the most from their knowledge and expertise you’ll need to work with them before you receive your Client furnished Owner Architect contract. 

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This will give you time to develop a system for reviewing all future contracts in an efficient and effective manner.

So here is a list of items that you’ll want to consider when reviewing any contract, especially Client furnished Architect contracts.

The checklist provided below is based on a chapter from the “Design professionals Guide to Fees + Contracts”.

The Design Professional's Guide to Fees + Contracts by Blue Turtle Consulting

Architectural Contract Checklist Disclaimer:

The list is designed to highlight the most important contractual issues and record the review process in a clear and concise format that works for you.

The list is not exhaustive, you’re encouraged to add your own legal and commercial issues to the list. You’ll also want to consult with an independent professional Legal Advisor before entering into any contractual agreement.

Architect Contracts Checklist: 


1.1 Is the Standard of Care reasonable and all-encompassing?
1.2 Is the Architect required to assume unreasonable obligations? (Such as obligations that are beyond his/her control, outside his/her scope, uninsurable or against legal requirements?)


2.1 Who owns the copyright?
2.2 What type of license has been granted, and to whom?
2.3 Under what terms can the license be revoked?
2.4 Is the license to use the material restricted to the project?


3.1 Are there provisions for monthly payments?
3.2 How much time before an invoice becomes due?
3.3 Is the contract clear on what constitutes a variation?
3.4 How will additional work be addressed?
3.5 Is there a “set-off” clause?


4.1 Is there any reference to; performance bonds, payment bonds, bid bonds, Bank Guarantees, Retention, Liquidated Damages, Penalties of any type?


5.1 Are the insurance requirements covered by the Architect’s policy?
5.2 What limits of liability are provided?
5.3 When does the defects liability period end?
5.4 Are the indemnities restricted and acceptable?


6.1 Are the terms mutual?
6.2 What recourse does the Architect have for nonpayment of fees?
6.3 Can the Architect terminate without cause?
6.4 Are the notice periods reasonable?
6.5 Does the Architect have the right to mediation?
6.6 Does the Architect have the right to go to law?


7.1 Are the assignment restrictions reasonable?


Are there any other unfair, unreasonable, uninsurable or legal matters to address? By writing all your questions down and including them in a form you’ll be able to achieve three goals:

1. Streamline the Review Process,

2. Reduce the Opportunity for Errors, and

3. Save Time and Money in the process

That’s been a quick look at some of the most important issues that impact the Architectural contract. 

I hope you found the information useful.

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